The Speaker of Parliament of the self declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, who is currently in Britain as a guest of the British-Armenian Parliamentary Group, on Wednesday (13 June) addressed a group of academics and students from Oxford University at an event organised by the Oxford Armenia Society held at Manchester-Harris College.
Ashot Ghoulian told his audience that over the last twenty years the people of Karabakh had succeeded in rehabilitating their homeland following the conflict. Many reforms had also been implemented, and the basis established for a democratic state. "The people of Karabakh are determined to carry on despite all adversity", Ghoulian said.
Speaking about the insistence of the Karabakh authorities to be represented in the peace process, Ghoulian said that there was no other conflict situation where the main component was not part of the peace process. He said that Karabakh's absence has allowed Azerbaijan to distort the way in which the conflict is presented. The main issue, which is the future of Karabakh, was being marginalised. Instead Azerbaijan was depicting Armenia as the aggressor. Ghoulian insisted that the people of Karabakh must be allowed to determine their own future.
Speaking about the economy Ghoulian said that in recent years Karabakh had identified mining as a source of economic development. It was estimated that there were gold and copper depositis that could last for thirty years. He said that Karabakh at the moment recieves around 40% of its annual budget in the form of loans from Armenia. The figure used to be higher but has now gone down because Karabakh can now generate its own revenues. The loans are paid back from import taxes which Armenia collects on Karabakh's behalf. The authorities in Karabakh have now declared agriculture, ecotourism and the construction of small hydro electric stations as priorities in the economic development of the territory in the immediate future.
Asked about international recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Ghoulian said that he regreted no country had recognised NKR as yet. He referred to other partly recognised entities such as Kosovo and Abkhazia and said that their international recognition came as a result of political manoevering. "The day will come when this manoevering will work in favour of Karabakh as well", Ghoulian said. He added that he did not wish Karabakh to be recognised in this way.
Ghoulian said that Karabakh can be a viable state, but that the Karabakh conflict exists, and it poses a threat to regional security. He condemned what he called "Azerbaijani provocations" in the first days of June which had left many young soldiers dead. He mentioned that a number of British NGOs have been trying to deal with the issue of mistrust between the sides through the development of confidence-building measures.
picture: Ashout Ghoulian, Speaker of Parliament fo the self declared nagorno-Karabakh Republic (archive picture).